Students at UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout continued to move out of dorm rooms Tuesday as COVID-19 cases in the state are growing. Plans are also being developed for potentially converting those dorm rooms into makeshift hospital beds if the cases overwhelm the city’s hospitals.
Tim Boehnen, UW-Eau Claire director of risk management, said they have a staggered move-out strategy.
“We were hopeful we could bring students back to finish out the semester,” Boehnen said. “We have individuals continuously moving out. We are helping people isolate, and re-connect with their belongings.”
About 2,000 students remain on campus, but perhaps 1,600 are expected to move out over the next 10 days, said UW-Eau Claire associate director Michael Knuth. They have asked students who are moving out to complete that process by April 4, Knuth said.
Doug Mell, UW-Stout communications director, said they have about 100 students left in campus dorm rooms today, which is the end of the school’s move out period. They had 2,797 students when the process began.
“Most of the remaining students are international students,” Mell explained. “However, some simply do not have a safe place to return to or would be homeless if not allowed to stay.”
Boehnen said the college is working with county health officials about the possibility the UW-Eau Claire buildings could be needed if hospitals are at capacity.
“We’re definitely prepared to help the county with any requests the county has,” Boehnen said. “Whatever the needs are, we’re willing to help in any way we can.”
Boehnen said that could include not just dorm buildings, but also gym space, or large spaces that could be distribution points.
“I know the county’s team is looking at a plethora of different options,” Boehnen said.
However, protecting students is first and foremost, he added.
“The biggest priority to us is still protecting the UW-Eau Claire community,” he said. “We truly are a community asset, and we believe in supporting the community we’re in.”
Mell said nothing has been determined at this point about using UW-Stout buildings.
“Like campuses around the state, we are aware that this is a situation that is changing daily and we will do whatever we can to help the community,” Mell said.